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Erdoğan, nationalist ally underplay high cost of living amid rising inflation

In this file photo Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) meets Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) Leader, Devlet Bahçeli at Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara, on November 19, 2019. AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his far-right ally Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), are raising eyebrows with their attempts to underplay the growing financial difficulties faced by millions in Turkey, where a staggeringly high cost of living has become the new normal.

Recent increases in food and utility prices continue to cripple the purchasing power of Turks as yearly inflation reached a record level of 61.14 percent in March, up from 54.4 percent in February.

Hürriyet daily columnist Abdülkadir Selvi on Thursday wrote about Erdoğan’s remarks on the high rate of inflation in Turkey, saying the president expects the price of produce to drop during the summer.

“President Erdoğan states that the high cost of fresh vegetables and fruit is due to seasonal effects and exports. … He says, ‘When the crops are harvested in summer, the price of food will decrease. This will be a year of abundance [and] blessing,’” Selvi said.

Referring to food essentials such as wheat, sunflower oil, sugar and meat, the columnist added, “‘This year we can import food at a more affordable price,’ Erdoğan said, noting that Turkey wasn’t joining international sanctions against Russia [over its war with Ukraine].”

The president also vowed to protect the nation against rising inflation, reiterating his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s goal of becoming one of the 10 largest economies in the world, during a meeting with AKP lawmakers on Wednesday.

“As the Turkish economy is getting ready to become one of the world’s top 10 economies, we have stated that we will not waste this opportunity with careless and thoughtless steps. We will figure this out in a way that will not crush our citizens with inflation,” Erdoğan said.

He further said high inflation and exorbitant price increases weren’t “just our problems” and that most European countries were facing “a graver situation than we do.”

Bahçeli backed Erdoğan during a speech at his party’s group meeting on Thursday, saying the high cost of living in the country was “temporary” and advising Turks to be “patient” about it.

“In today’s conditions, inflation may have increased, [and] there may be complaints and whining about the high cost of living, but all of this is temporary. We have no choice but to continue our historic journey with patience and fortitude to reach more peaceful times,” the MHP leader said.

The weakening lira and the rising cost of living have become major sources of public discontent in Turkey as Erdoğan faces an election next year.

In the last general election, held in June 2018, the AKP garnered a nationwide vote of 42.6 percent. However, public surveys have increasingly been showing the party’s public support to be slipping.

According to a survey conducted by İstanbul Economic Research in March, nearly 60 percent of Turks said their income was not sufficient to cover their expenses, with the figure including 40.7 percent of AKP voters.

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